‘GHG Guru’ talks about cows as key to ‘climate neutrality’

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Innovation in the face of disruption, that was one of the themes of the Alltech ONE Virtual Experience last week. In fact, Alltech CEO and president Dr. Mark Lyons talked about how innovation has been the driving force behind 35 years of the annual “ideas conference”.

This year, due to COVID-19 preventing the conference from happening in-person, innovation turned the ONE conference into a virtual experience for the first time with participation by over 23,000 people from 144 countries.

“We live in a time of great opportunity, we have younger people asking questions, and when farmers get those questions, they should answer them and not defer,” said Dr. Frank Mitloehner. Friday’s ONE keynote speaker.

Dr. Mitloehner is a University of California-Davis animal science professor and air quality specialist as well as world renown greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions expert. He talked on his favorite subject: “Clearing the air: Debunking the myths of agriculture.”

Mitloehner is a foremost authority on air quality emissions and how to mitigate them within the context of livestock and agriculture, and he is an integral part of a benchmarking project for the environmental footprint for livestock.

The project he deems most important of his career is “getting animal agriculture to a place where we consider it climate neutral,” he said, adding that climate was top-of-mind before COVID-19, and will be again. “There’s a lot of interest in this.”

But the path to climate neutrality begins with proper accounting for methane and how it behaves in the biogenic cycle.

“The one missing entity is the media on this,” said Mitloehner. “We are seeing a major new narrative about animal agriculture and the accurate quantifying of methane, but it is problematic that media are not reporting about it.”

Despite lack of media coverage, Mitloehner expects the new narrative to take hold.

He gave a vivid example of why accurate measurement is needed. Speaking in Ireland recently, he compared photos of the Emerald Isle to photos of Los Angeles to photos of a coal-fired power plant in Europe.

Ireland is so green, with pastures, hedges and forages everywhere, he said. But the way carbon is conventionally quantified, Ireland would have the largest carbon footprint of the three examples.

“But the change in how we perceive GHG is materializing as we speak. We have to think about methane not just produced but also degraded, and how GHG is sequestered,” Mitloehner explained.

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In the old way of quantifying carbon by looking at methane budgets (left side of graphic), not only are methane’s short-lived properties as a ‘flow gas’ ignored, but also the sequestration (shown on the right side) provided by agriculture and forestry as part of a biogenic cycle. Screenshot from Friday’s keynote presentation by Dr. Frank Mitloehner during Alltech’s ONE Virtual Conference.

Using the old way, “They don’t think of sectors like forestry and agriculture serving as a sink for GHG,” he said, comparing the three GHGs — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — in terms of their heat trapping capacity.

“So they look at methane and translate it to a CO2 equivalent. That’s what people have been doing since 1990,” he said. “At that time, scientists had several footnotes and caveats, but they were cut off and people ran with the slides without the footnotes. That is a dangerous situation that has gotten animal agriculture into a lot of trouble actually.”

He explained that CO2 is a long-lived climate pollutant, whereas methane is short lived. Methane is different. Unfortunately, when methane emissions are calculated globally for sectors each year, they don’t consider the whole picture.

“If we don’t get this question right, and the livestock moves, then we have ‘leakage,’” he said. “Most people add it up and stop discussion there, but they shouldn’t. On the right side of the graph are these sinks, and they amount to a respectable total, so the net methane per year is a fraction of the total number they are using.”

Another difference is the life span of these gases. CO2 lives 1000 years, nitrous oxide hundreds of years, methane 10 years, Mitloehner explained. “The methane our cows put out will be gone after 10 years, it is produced and destroyed.”

Dr. Mark Lyons brought up all the talk about “planetary diets” and the “spin and marketing” of eating for you and the planet.

Mitloehner said “the inference of diet on environment is greatly overplayed for PR purposes. The impacts are much lower than some people say who want to sell their alternatives. If and when comparing food groups, it must be done fairly. A pound of beef has a different footprint than a pound of lettuce, but it also has a vastly different nutritional profile.”

Another example he gave was dairy vs. almond juice. “Using the old way of assessing the impact of dairy milk, it is 10 times greater, but almond juice has a 17 times greater water footprint. You can make any food shine, but drill into it and there is no silver bullet. People will continue to eat animal sourced foods and the sound argument is to allow us to produce what people need and crave in the lowest impact possible and that is the route we are going.”

The good news, he said, is that for every one vegan, there are five former vegans. The retention is not good.

He talked the virtual ONE attendees through the process of where carbon comes from and where it ends up. This is why GHG from livestock are significantly different from other sources such as fossil fuel.

Plants need sunlight, carbon in the form of CO2, which is made into carbohydrate, cellulose or starch, ingested by the cow into the rumen where some of it is converted into methane. And after a decade, that methane is converted back into CO2 needed by the plants to make carbohydrate.

“The carbon from our methane originates in the atmosphere, goes through plants, to animals, to air, and again, on repeat,” said Mitloehner.

In this biogenic cycle, if there are constant livestock herds, “then you are not adding carbon to the atmosphere, it is all recycled,” he explained. “What I’m saying here doesn’t mean methane doesn’t matter, but the question really is: Do our livestock herds add to additional methane for additional warming, and the answer is NO.”

This is a total change in the narrative around livestock, and it will be the narrative in the years to come, according to Mitloehner. Because dairy and beef herds have declined so much since the 1950s and 1970s — producing more animal protein at the same time, “We have not caused an increasing amount of carbon in the atmosphere but have decreased the amount of carbon we put in the atmosphere,” said Mitloehner.

The difference between animal agriculture and fossil fuels is a cycle vs. a one-way street.

“Each time you drive to work, you put CO2 into the atmosphere that lasts 1000 years, and it is a stock gas that adds up each day,” Mitloener said. “Everytime we put it in the atmosphere we add to the existing stock. This is why the curve always goes up, because it is a long-lived climate pollutant. Methane on the other hand is flow gas. Cows can put in the air Monday, but on Tuesday a similar amount that is put in is also being taken out. By having a constant number of cows, you are not adding methane into the atmosphere. The only time you add is throughout the first 10 years of its existence or by increasing herd size.”

He quoted researchers from Oxford University who are also communicating this science and technical papers to the public. But again, the media in general are ignoring it.

What really gets Mitloehner energized are the concepts like biogas and use of it as a renewable fuel in vehicles, for example, and other technologies where dairy and livestock operations can take their climate neutrality and turn it into a cooling effect by counteracting the warming caused by other sectors.

“The current way of accounting for it is a flawed way of looking at it, because it does not account for the fact that keeping methane stable, the amount of warming added is actually zero,” he said. And this is where to build incentive to make up for other sectors that are actively adding to the warming.

“If we were to reduce methane, we could induce cooling,” he said. “We have the ability to do that. This is how agriculture, especially animal agriculture, can be the solution to the warming caused by other sectors of the economy and life.”

Mitloehner measures to quantify the impact of mitigation technologies to see if we can get to that point of reducing other emissions. He talked about California law mandating reduction of methane by 40% by 2030.

“They’ve reduced by 20%, using the carrot instead of the stick. The state incentivizes the financing of technologies that mitigate,” said Mitloehner. “We are now at 25% of the 40% total reduction. If we can do it here, it can be done in other parts of the country and the world… and it means our livestock sector will be on the path of climate neutrality.”

If you have a ‘beef’ with GHG reporting, contact Dr. Mitloehner on Twitter. You can follow him there @GHGGuru. He urges farmers to get involved, get engaged.

— By Sherry Bunting

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Call to action: Feds ignore science on saturated fats, poised to tighten restrictions in 2020-25 guidelines

Where is our dairy industry? No time to waste!

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By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, April 3, 2020

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — While Congress, USDA and HHS are all consumed by the health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is moving forward full-steam-ahead with what looks like more restrictions on saturated fats to be announced in May. Meanwhile, dairy leadership organizations sit on the sidelines, just letting it happen.

According to the Nutrition Coalition, and this reporter’s own following of the DGA Committee process, the process has been flawed from beginning and has reached a critical juncture. There is an urgent need for the public to pay attention and get involved.

Many had hoped the Committee would review and include the sound science and revelations about the flaws in the saturated fat limits in the current dietary guidelines to remove those restrictions or improve them in the 2020-25 guidelines. But the opposite is occurring.

As reported previously in Farmshine, some of the very best and most rigorous science on saturated fats and in relation to dairy fats vs. cardiovascular disease have been excluded from the review process from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, the process that began in 2019 is poised to move Americans even further down the wrong road with even more restrictive fat rules that will govern and inform all institutional feeding and which heavily influence the foodservice industry. Even worse, farmer checkoff funds are forced, by USDA, to help promote these unhealthy guidelines.

While National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association, Dairy Management Inc., and other industry organizations are silent, the Nutrition Coalition, founded by Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, is sounding the alarm.

“We need your help to ensure that the federal government not continue to ignore large, government-funded rigorous clinical trials — the “gold standard” of evidence — that could reverse decades of misguided nutrition policy on the subject of saturated fats,” writes Teicholz in a recent communication.

She’s right. From the beginning, the DGA Committee was formed, and the research pre-screened by USDA, in such a way that many of the best studies and minds have been excluded.

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Part of the screening process used by USDA for science that will be included or excluded from Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee consideration is this curious item shown above: “Framed around relevancy to U.S. Federal  Policy”. Committee members in October asked for more information on this research screening criteria. USDA explained it to them and those watching that this refers to including only the research that “aligns with current federal policy.”

Interestingly, one of the criteria for screening the research the Committee can consider is that it must “align with current federal policy.”

This dooms the entire process to a slanted view that is entrenched in the flawed bureacracy right from the start!

During the recent meeting of the DGA Committee in March — the last such meeting before release of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) in May or June 2020 — the Committee failed to consider any of this evidence on saturated fat.

Instead, the committee announced it had found the link between saturated-fats consumption and cardiovascular disease to be “strong,” for both children and adults.

In fact, the committee recently proposed lowering the caps on saturated fat even further, from the current 10% of calories down to 7%!

“These conclusions ignore the entire last decade of science, during which a growing number of scientists have concluded that the caps on saturated fats are not supported by the science,” Teicholz points out.

She cites the work of a group of leading scientists who have reviewed the research on saturated-fats and released a consensus statement.

“Scientists are concluding that the most rigorous and current science fails to support a continuation of caps on saturated fats,” writes Teicholz. “So, why is the current DGA Committee — yet again — simply rubber-stamping the status quo and ignoring the science?”

The Nutrition Coalition is working fervently to expose the flaws in the process the DGA Committee is using under the USDA Food Nutrition Services umbrella. This in turn is what is used by USDA and HHS to govern what Americans eat.

These are not just “guidelines”, these are edicts to which everything from school lunches to military provisions are tied.

In fact, even farmers are tied to these guidelines as the dairy checkoff program leaders maintain they cannot promote whole milk because they are governed by USDA to stick to the guidelines, forcing farmers to mandatorily fund this completely flawed and unscientific “government speech.”

Americans deserve a recommendation on dietary saturated fat that is based on the most current and rigorous science available, and the Nutrition Coalition is issuing a call to action for Americans to join them in calling on the 2020 DGA Committee to critically review the most up-to-date evidence and modify its position on saturated fats accordingly.

“When we refer to “rigorous science,” we mean the data from well-controlled, randomized, clinical trials—the type of evidence that can demonstrate cause and effect,” writes Teicholz. “These trials were conducted on some 75,000 people addressing the question: do saturated fats cause heart disease? The results are that fats have no effect on cardiovascular or total mortality. This evidence has never been directly reviewed by any DGA committee.

“Ignoring evidence in order to preserve the status-quo is not acceptable,” she continues. “It’s not good policy, and it has not been good for the health of the American people. With the next iteration of the guidelines, your help is more crucial than ever to ensure that the USDA critically review the most up-to-date evidence and modify the government’s position on saturated fats to reflect the science accurately.”

Meanwhile, the dairy industry leaders continue to drag their collective feet.

As reported in Farmshine over the past few years, the call to action and support for healthy recommendations that consider the science on saturated fats and the goodness of whole milk, for example, has been largely pursued by grassroots efforts while industry organizations either fall in lockstep with the guidelines or stay neutral on the sidelines.

Once again, it will be up to the grassroots to get involved, for the public to be aware and get involved, for the Congress to be contacted, informed and involved.

How many times have we heard industry leaders shrug their shoulders and say “it all hinges on the Dietary Guidelines”?

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When presented at the October DGA meeting with the first 12,000 names on the “Bring the choice of Whole Milk Back to Schools” petition (now numbering close to 30,000 online and by mail), Brandon Lipps, USDA Deputy Under Secretary of Food Nutrition Services, gave this response: “We have to see the science start coming together and be sure to bring everyone in… into the process.” Now it appears the Dietary Guidelines that control food at school, daycare, work settings, military, and many other foodservice and institutional feeding settings will be even MORE restrictive allowing even LESS of the healthy fat we — especially our children — need. The fat we eat is not the fat we get! Why is USDA moving us further in the wrong direction and excluding the science on this?! Act now. There are links in this article to speak out. Sign the Whole Milk in Schools petition also!

If there is even a chance that our children can have whole milk and healthy meals at school, that farmers can use their mandatory checkoff to promote the true healthfulness of whole milk and full-fat dairy foods, this biased process of DGA Committee guidelines has got to be challenged in a big way.

Here’s how you can help.

Contact your Senators and Representatives in Congress with a simple message. Ask them to please ensure that USDA is not ignoring the science on saturated fats.

Below is a message that the Nutrition Coalition suggests, which you or your organization can adapt and share with others in communicating with members of Congress:

Please urge the agencies in charge of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), the USDA and HHS, to stop ignoring large clinical trials-the “gold standard” of evidence – that could reverse decades of misguided caps on saturated fats.

Shockingly, none of this evidence has ever been reviewed by any expert committee overseeing the science for the Guidelines. In fact, the current committee is pushing to lower the caps even further.

This is extremely alarming given that a growing number of prominent nutrition scientists have concluded the evidence shows that saturated fats have no effect on cardiovascular or total mortality. In fact, a recent panel of leading scientists reviewed the data and in a groundbreaking consensus statement, soon to be published in a medical journal, found that the science fails to support a continuation limits on saturated fats.

The current DGA committee appears to be one-sided and biased on this issue.

Please urge the USDA to stop ignoring the science and give serious consideration to lifting the caps on saturated fat for the upcoming 2020 DGA.

An easy way to do this online is available at this “take action” link https://www.nutritioncoalition.us/take-action

Or find the name and contact information for your Senators and Representative at this link and contact them that way https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

Also, comment at the Federal Register docket for the DGA Committee by May 15, 2020. The sooner, the better, because the committee is expected to make its recommendations in May. Submit a comment to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee here https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FNS-2019-0001

Also take this opportunity to sign this petition to “Bring the Choice of Whole Milk Back to Schools” at https://www.change.org/p/bring-whole-milk-back-to-schools

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Market Moos: COVID-19 impacts how consumers are supplied with food

By Sherry Bunting, excerpt updated from Market Moos in Farmshine, March 27, 2020

Ten days into the 15-day COVID-19 “flatten the curve” mitigation strategy, supermarkets are still scrambling to remain supplied with in-demand food items — including milk, especially whole milk, dairy products, especially butter, eggs and beef.

Nielson data show nationwide fluid milk sales were up 32% last week, dairy products like butter (up 85%), cheese and yogurt up over 50%, egg sales up 44%, and beef sales, including ground beef, up 77%!

Walmart and other supermarkets have started setting limits on how many gallons of milk or cartons of eggs or packages of butter can be purchased per customer, meaning shoppers will be making more frequent trips to feed their families and supply their older loved ones.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding sent a message out on various television news programs Wednesday evening, asking the state’s consumers to “stop hoarding food” and to “think of others who may need the food.”

Unlike toilet paper (and there’s more to that story too in terms of paper product imports), what we are seeing with food essentials is not “hoarding.”

What may not be clear to state and national ag and government leaders is that consumers are not hoarding food, they are buying what they need for a week at a time (to avoid multiple trips exposing them to multiple people). Their grocery lists are more full because for most of them, their whole families are home all day and evening with schools closed and all non-essential businesses shut down.

In addition, many shoppers are buying provisions for elderly parents or neighbors to leave on their porches for them.

This is not “food hoarding”, this is providing for one’s family now that families are not being institutionally-fed according to the government’s rules restricting calories derived from animal products at least one or two meals at least five days a week.

This is a major shift in where the supply chain needs to focus its distribution of the abundant milk and beef that farmers are producing, but is meeting a severe tamp-down in terms of base pricing, production penalties being deducted from milk checks, and over this past weekend even the dumping of milk due to what industry leaders say is “processing disruption” or “loss of foodservice and hospitality trade” despite huge increases in retail purchasing indicating supply chain shifts. (See more on that here.)

A dilemma for some farms that have transitioned into direct sales to get closer to end-users, is that their businesses often rely on people assembling through agro-tourism, farmer’s markets, events, and casual dining restaurants that are more geared to dining-in than taking-out.

Some of these diversified and direct-to-consumer dairy, beef and farmsteading operations have large and fairly recent processing equipment and marketing investments and now must limit access to the consumers their businesses served.

A provision in the $2 Trillion COVID-19 federal aid package is $9.5 billion for livestock, dairy, and specialty crop producers that are part of “local food systems” where their marketing is impacted by COVID-19.

Farms that have developed consumer-facing businesses may also qualify for “bridge” loans to small businesses that are also part of the package.

Meanwhile, dairy, beef and ag organizations are beginning to also raise a concern to USDA to be alert to price manipulation as sales and value to processors is rising rapidly with the surge in demand for dairy and beef, while the prices paid to dairy and beef producers is falling rapidly in the other direction as both milk futures and live cattle futures plunged.

American Farm Bureau Federation even raised this concern, along with transportation and labor as three points of vulnerability on farmers’ minds.

A spokesperson for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association expressed NCBA’s concerns in a CNBC business news interview indicating that farmers and ranchers selling cattle once a year as their income for the whole year, felt the huge drop in live cattle on the futures market for fats and feeders. This can break an operation selling cattle at this juncture, after the tough year last year.

Meanwhile, boxed beef prices are rising rapidly, to where processor margins are $600 profit per head, whereas farm losses are more than $100 per head. This also happened a year ago when the relationship between farm pricing and wholesale to retail pricing was equally inverse, showing massive profit-taking at the processing level and big losses for cattle producers for many months after a fire at one beef processing plant in Kansas.

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With science-fiction, they socially herd us like cattle to ‘alternative’ squeeze chute

By Sherry Bunting, Farmshine, February 22, 2019

All circles lead back to marketing, which is on display right now with the EAT Lancet report in January and the EAT Forums and social marketing that are hitting us in rapid succession, having already filtered into the Green New Deal in Washington and other legislation proposed in California.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions expert from the University of California, Davis is not the only one questioning the GHG findings in the report.

He offered proof this week that the science director for the EAT Foundation, in an email (below), admitted the report’s dietary recommendations are not based on environmental considerations, they are based on – you guessed it – a hyper-charged version of the flawed dietary guidelines that have been making us, especially our children, fatter and sicker through ever-increasing government control of food choices!

This is a clear admission that the GHG figures being peddled are, as Mitloehner put it in Lancaster recently “without a single leg to stand on.”

This brings everything back to the common denominator in the ongoing social engineering project: USDA Dietary Guidelines.

In the pages of Farmshine for years (through two dietary guideline cycles, 10 years to be exact), we have warned about the Dietary Guidelines.

For months, we’ve sounded alarms about the genetically-altered yeast making ‘dairy without the cow’.

For weeks, we’ve been tracing the alliances of the Edelman company that has done the marketing and PR for DMI for 20 years and is also doing the social marketing and communication strategies for EAT Lancet.

That story was laid out here last week.

This week the EAT Lancet Commission’s desire for drastic reductions in meat and dairy consumption grew major legs as the Edelman social marketing machine — via staff loaned and now working as employees of EAT’s corporate initiative — have been in full artillery mode with our nation’s dairy and beef cattle in the crosshairs.

The right hand has been telling us we have a seat at the table, while the left hand has been working overtime to pull out the rug.

I’ll borrow this term: Resist! The Science Fiction EAT Lancet report is slowly but surely being spoonfed without a transparent airing in the press.

The EAT Lancet Commission had little actual press since 2019 launch, but not to worry! The global food tranformation effort (EAT Lancet, EAT FReSH) is coordinated by the world’s largest marketing and PR firm — spawning the seemingly random and unconnected legislative and marketing campaigns from the Green New Deal and new global diet ‘wisdom’ (flexitarian / reducitarian) to the outright lies about cows in foundation versions of prominent news organizations like Reuters, Bloomberg, The Economist, The Guardian and positioning of the new PepsiCo’s Quaker Oat beverage launch inprime dairy case real estate this week, to the unveiling of Danone’s new non-dairy yogurt plant in Dubois, Pennsylvania geared to “take plant-based products to the max.”


PepsiCo and Danone are two of the 41 corporate sponsors of the EAT Lancet global food transformation propaganda, and they are launching their ‘solutions’ right now. PepsiCo launched it’s Quaker Oat beverage this week, and it’s showing up prominently in dairy cases like this one. Danone unveiled the largest ‘dairy free’ yogurt plant in the world in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, with its new ‘sustainable’ yogurt products reaching store shelves also in time to capitalize on the EAT FReSH social marketing campaign. Photo submitted by a Farmshine reader in northwest Indiana 

A convergence of the elite. It’s really one big thing, connected. The funding corporations are rolling out their food ‘solutions’ as we speak, hoping unwitting consumers will jump on the food-transformation-train.

I am resisting any brand that participates in this tomfoolery. 

EAT FReSH corporate sponsor Danone launched their marketing campaign for the new “dairy free” yogurt now made in Pennsylvania, and it has EAT Lancet taglines written all over it.

Of course, Danone is also a client of Edelman. So is PepsiCo.

Follow the money, folks.

Inside this high-stakes game is the world’s largest marketing and PR firm coining elite catch phrases about “eating within planetary boundaries” — you know — to save the planet, and other such “purpose-driven marketing” they are known for.

(Technically, the account director of Edelman Amsterdam planned and organized for two years as employee on assignment with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which is the organization launching the EAT FReSH initiative with the 41 corporate sponsors, including Edelman. When the EAT Lancet Report and EAT Forums did launch in mid-January 2019, Lara Luten left Edelman’s employ at that point to become the full time director of the communications and social marketing plans that have been laid).

Boil it down. The nobles are telling the serfs: Forget animal protein, ‘Eat cake!’

I’m not against dairy alternatives, they should be available. We are omnivores. Plants need animals and animals need plants and we need them both.

What I am against is global propaganda that positions itself as science and is being used to socially herd us like cattle to the plant-based chute without the integrity to tell us it’s a bridge to genetically-altered-laboratory-designer-proteins (aka fake-meat and fake-dairy) grown in vats and bioreactors. 

Roughly 70% of the available land for food production is grasslands and marginal lands. It is these lands that cattle can graze or where forages for cattle are harvested in systems much different from row crops and vegetable plots. 

Cows upcycle low quality feedstuffs and plant byproducts that we can’t use, and they turn it into nutrient dense, delicious milk and beef. (Those grasslands and forages sequester carbon too!!)

Animal Ag emits less than half of the total greenhouse gas emissions for all of agriculture, and if we look at this per unit of nutrition, it’s amazing.

Animal Ag (dairy, beef, pork, poultry all combined) are responsible for just 3.9% of the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, but EAT Lancet tells a different story, and the lies are being exposed.

Just imagine how much stress will be on our so-called “planetary boundaries” if science fiction and social purpose-driven marketing prevails and more of us are “herded” or fooled into replacing more of our animal-based dietary nutrients with plant-based sources. It can’t be done. 

This is a Silicon Valley bridge to the billionaire-funded bioreactor factories to grow (3-D print) replacement protein from gene-altered yeast or gene-edited cell blobs. In fact, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was on CNN with Fareed Zakaaria Sunday talking about “cow farts being one of the world’s biggest problems” and the need for lab-cultured animal protein … to save the world. (Let’s be all the dumber for watching that interview clip here)

What Mr. Gates forgot to mention is his considerable investment in this disrupter technology of fake-meat, and that Microsoft is a corporate sponsor of EAT FReSH / EAT Foundation.

Yes, more science-fiction propaganda in the form of so-called purpose-driven marketing is coming from all sides and hyping up fast because the billionaire investors and food supply chain corporations need this social herding process to launch their new products. It’s not about people and it’s not about the planet, it’s about profit — at our expense!

No thanks here. I’m jumping the gate. The social-herders have gone too far.

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Top photo credit Michele Kunjappu

‘There’s no magic in animal handling.’ Calm behavior taught, learned.

Dr. Hoglund’s low-energy cattle-handling workshops school cattle and handlers

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Dr. Hoglund talks about raising hands from below eye level to above the eye level of the cattle to add a little energy to create movement, while emphasizing the importance of using only the amount of energy needed.

 By Sherry Bunting, first published in Farmshine, Nov. 7, 2018

MARION, Pa. — When Josh and Brandi Martin attended their first low-energy cattle handling and stockmanship clinic with Dr. Don Hoglund, Josh wondered what he could learn. After all, he works cattle every day at the family’s farm where they milk 1000 cows and raise dairy replacements as well as beef cattle in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

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Josh and Brandi Martin attended a previous clinic and learned so much they organized one as a refresher at their farm for themselves and their neighbors.

“I learned a lot, and it surprised me,” he told a dozen fellow dairy producers, employees and industry representatives at a two-day workshop organized at Martin Farms Oct. 15-16.

“There’s no magic in animal handling,” said Dr. Hoglund, who stated there’s also no definition for “emotion” because emotion is cognitive and requires language.

Fear, therefore, can’t be quantified.

He focused on the observable behavior of animals and how humans and animals learn from their interactions.

The learning for clinic attendees began in a classroom setting before heading out to the heifers and cows with the realization that just like no one in the room could know what anyone else was thinking or feeling, we also don’t know what animals are thinking or feeling.

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Dr. Don Hoglund

“But we can observe and measure their behavior and responses,” said Dr. Hoglund, whose educational, vocational and life experiences span decades as a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, animal trainer (including for Walt Disney Company), researcher, educator, evaluator and text book author on the subject.

A scientist with decades of experience, Hoglund stressed the importance of observing behavior, not emotion and of using specific words in conversations with consumers to convey behavior that can be observed instead of emotion, which is a guess.

As we soon found out, Hoglund’s clinics are not your run-of-the-mill stockmanship workshops. He teaches science-based and practical approaches to human and animal interaction – challenging the conventional wisdom.

“I’m not here to tell you how to handle your cattle, but rather to show you how animals learn, and how you learn affects how your animals learn,” he said.

Part of the two-day cattle course at the Martin farm involved having producers do techniques in training and handling to the point where they can teach someone else and accomplish important aspects of various farm owner and employee certifications.

Additionally, Hoglund’s techniques equipped attendees with a few ideas for “teaching” dairy animals calm parlor behavior via low-energy training as heifers.

The fascinating aspect of the clinic was evident in how both the people and the cattle demonstrated observable behaviors that showed they were both learning.

“We are seeing a revolution in the neurosciences,” said Dr. Hoglund, explaining that we really don’t know why animals run.

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A dozen dairy producers, employees and industry people attended Dr. Don Hoglund’s low-energy cattle handling clinic at Martin Farms near Marion, Franklin County, Pennsylvania recently. Photos by Sherry Bunting

“They run because they can,” he said. “There’s more than one reason why animals run, so instead of why, we should be looking at ‘when’ they run. Look at when a behavior occurs, not guessing why. You know what the cattle are doing and when they are doing it.”

He demonstrated a primary example on dairy farms.

“A dairy cow faces you all of her life. That’s how we feed and interact with her growing up. But for milking, she faces away from you and has to turn her head to see you,” Hoglund explains. “We can teach animals to calmly face away so they are ready for the parlor.”

He explained his techniques as “low-energy handling” — using just the amount of energy it takes. Preferring to speak in terms of “energy” versus “stress,” Hoglund said a key is for cattle handlers to learn to manage their own energy levels relative to the cattle.

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Dr. Hoglund instructs pairs of participants in the heifer pens at Martin Farms as the teach heifers to calmly “face away.”

“When we start doing things in the blind zone, early, we are training the cattle to handle this calmly,” he said. “Everyone is told to stay out of the cow’s blind zone, but that’s where all the milking work is done.

“How about we train her to accept that?”

In the heifer pens, attendees, working in pairs, put the principles into practice according to Hoglund’s instructions getting the heifers to learn “facing away” behavior and “see human go to food.”

It was interesting to see how quickly they settled-in to be orderly as they learned “facing away,” and how their handlers learned to step away once they got the animals where they wanted them to go.

“Your energy drops and the animal learns. That’s what we’re after, the learning,” said Hoglund. “Cattle are in the business of learning to stay alive. They will go the efficient way and that helps you get more of the milk you are investing in.

“When we work with cattle in low-energy, then we have them in the parlor in low-energy,” he explained, adding that calm behavior is observable where the term “relaxed” is a feeling term, and therefore unknown.

“We want to talk and think about these things as behavior and not emotion. Behavior is anything you can observe,” he explained. “We are teaching others to teach animals to go calmly and to face away from us.”

The biggest thing for clinic attendees was to come away doing enough to be able to teach others at their own farms. After working in a heifer pen, participants had the opportunity to ‘train’ another clinic participant.

Throughout the handling, Hoglund said that trotting is okay, but that if the animals begin to lope, that’s not what you want.

The exercises in teaching cattle to accept “facing away” are something producers or employees can do 15 minutes a day for three days in a row and get results and then periodically refresh, according to Hoglund.

“It’s not really animal handling or stockmanship, it’s animal learning,” he observed. “The animals are learning to accept compression, and the people learn to slow down, be safe, and manage themselves to use only the energy required to accomplish the task. As we lower the energy, we reinforce the learning.”

He acknowledged that it’s tough for handlers to learn when to step back. “That’s one of the hardest things to learn, but also the most important.”

Low-energy handling starts with hands at sides. For safety reasons, he advised participants not to put them down in their pockets but to thumb their pockets and keep the hands out in case they need them.

“We add energy to move them by moving our hands from below the eye level of the cattle to above the eye level to raise the energy,” Hoglund explained.

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Bred heifers calmly eat at the bunks watching some of their pen-mates ‘learn’ calm parlor entry through a makeshift chute.

When it comes to training animals and human handlers for low-energy handling, Hoglund said avoid training animals where they sleep: “You don’t want to chase animals out of their beds to train them.”

While working in the heifer pens at the Martin farm, Hoglund explained that, “Heifers learn through all five senses. To know where an animal is looking, look at her ear, not her eye. She can see two things at once, so the ear tells you more.”

This is important information for producers and employees to avoid raising the energy level in a pen.

Hoglund made the case that these techniques are also important from an economic standpoint. Citing work he has been involved with in Minnesota, he said it takes 20 minutes for a cow to get rid of that adrenaline rush from a high-energy handling.

“That 20 minutes can hold back two and a half to three pounds of milk in the next milking,” he said, adding that cattle remember “where” things happen and don’t regain the milk lost.

“These techniques will help you get the milk you’ve already invested in,” said Hoglund, explaining that  “animals repeat what they learn, and for the people working with the animals, seeing gives information but doing is learning.”

This was just one aspect of the two-day clinic and the tip of the iceberg in terms of Dr. Hoglund’s work and the services and education he provides to universities, organizations, companies and especially hands-on to groups of producers and employees on farms.

Look for more tips from this clinic in the future, and to learn more about Dr. Hoglund and his work, visit https://www.dairystockmanship.com/

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How will fake milk, fake meat be labeled and regulated?

Say, what? New twist on standards of identity: How will fake milk and fake meat be labeled and regulated?

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In a time when many people have lost their connection to the values and sustainability of the circle of life, cattle have been getting an undeserved bad rap on everything from diet to environment to compassion. On all three counts, the anti-animal agenda lies behind the false narrative that is leading us down a dishonest path to more fake concoctions of ill-fated science fueling profits at the expense of our physical and emotional health and the health of the planet. Fake meat and fake milk are funded by billionaires, genetically engineered by USDA, initiated as the brain children of Silicon Valley techies, with partnership from the biggest names in corporate agriculture. Noble goals of ending hunger are the defense, but it’s difficult to believe that when we have surplus dairy and meat protein produced naturally with the real problem of hunger coming down to distribution and waste. This so-called solution has the potential to quietly dictate food choices, markets and livelihoods.

By Sherry Bunting, updated since first published in Farmshine, November 21, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  “Dairy reinvented: Sustainable. Kind. Delicious,” is the tagline of Perfect Day’s website.

“Better meat, better world” are the words that jump from the Memphis Meats website.

To be more specific, Perfect Day’s mission is to “create a better way to make dairy protein, the same nutritious protein found in cow’s milk…without the help of a single cow.”

Meanwhile, at Memphis Meats, their mission is “To bring delicious and healthy meat to your table by harvesting it from cells instead of animals… feel good about how it’s made because we strive to make it better for you… and the world.”

On the fake meat side, Memphis Meats received Series A funding from four sources in August 2017: venture capitalist DFJ, billionaire investors Bill Gates and Richard Branson, and Cargill. In January of 2018, Tyson came on board as an investor.

On the fake dairy side, Perfect Day received its Series A funding from Singapore and Hong Kong venture capital and investment companies that have relationships with some of the largest food and beverage companies and brands in the world, according to a company news release. In addition, Continental Grain was part of the early investment, and in November 2018, Perfect Day announced a partnership with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).

The big question, at present, is how will these proteins be regulated and labeled?

The discussion is converging with FDA’s nutrition innovation strategy and modernization of standards of identity (especially dairy standards of identity), along with parallel hearings and comment periods on how to regulate and label the ‘meat’ version of lab-created cellular proteins.

Make no mistake about it folks: Both of these processes involve genetic engineering start-to-finish.

Perfect Day (fake milk protein), for example, sources yeast from USDA research labs that has been “genetically-altered” to include bovine protein stimulators and synthesizers.

Memphis Meats (fake meat) uses animal cells, mainly bovine and poultry, from cell banks that have been edited to grow only desired muscle cells — separate from their whole-animal source.

The fake dairy protein would be the end-product of the fermentation of the genetically-altered yeast, while the fake meat protein would be the protein blobs that grow from the genetically-edited cells, using neonatal bovine serum — or a plant chemical substitute that is under development — as a growth “on” button.

Both systems would require energy feed sources, using a sugar and/or starch substrate to feed the growth.

Both processes would produce waste streams.

The dairy version are grown in fermentation vats. The meat version in bioreactor towers.

While opinions vary on how quickly these technologies can scale, it is clear that the technologies are well-funded, and that agriculture’s top-tier food supply-chain processors and distributors are partnering.

We must continue to let FDA and USDA know what farmers and consumers — the two ends of the supply chain that need to be talking to each other — feel about the potential of these technologies to create captive-supply market control using interchangeable proteins in common manufactured dairy products or as protein enhancements for plant-based beverages, as well as to stretch boneless beef and poultry products with fake counterparts, namely as ground beef, hamburger, meatballs and chicken tenders and nuggets.

In a press release Friday, November 16, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they will “jointly oversee the production of cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry.”

There has been no similar FDA PMO-regultory process established for the fake milk proteins.

USDA and FDA had a public meeting in July and October to discuss the use of bovine and poultry “cell lines” to develop these cell-cultured, lab-created foods.

In fact, meat industry stakeholders shared their perspectives on the regulation that is needed to “foster these innovative food products and maintain the highest standards of public health,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb in an official FDA statement in November.

USDA and FDA announced their “agreement on a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labeling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.”

As FDA and USDA are “actively refining the technical details of the framework,” some of the aspects of the framework are said to include robust collaboration and information-sharing between the two agencies to allow each to carry out our respective roles.

The well-funded startups and their lobbying organization Good Food Institute (a misnomer in this author’s opinion) had pushed for FDA to control labeling and inspection knowing that if USDA were in charge, their efforts to scale production would be slowed.

In view of this joint approach between FDA and USDA, the original public comment period about cell-cultured ‘meat’ had been extended to December 26, 2018. Comments can be seen at the FDA docket at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FSIS-2018-0036-0001  and there are thoughts that this comment period could be extended again as has the dairy standards of identity comment period.

Meanwhile, on the lab-created ‘dairy’ protein front, Perfect Day, a Silicon-Valley startup, announced in a press release in November that it has formed a partnership with ADM, an agricultural processor and food ingredient provider with a mission of plant-to-plate collaboration throughout the food industry.

In fact, ADM will provide facilities for scaling this technology as part of the deal.

This partnership is billed as “teaming up” to begin supplying “the world’s first animal-free dairy proteins to the food industry in 2019,” according to Perfect Day.

“Animal-free dairy proteins will not only offer consumers the option to have a lactose-free, animal-free alternative to conventional animal-based dairy, but also provide a portfolio of nutritious and functional, high-purity proteins with similar taste and nutrition profile of dairy proteins for a wide range of food and beverage applications,” Perfect Day said in their press release.

Meanwhile, the FDA has extended — yet again — its invitation for information specifically on “the use of names of dairy foods in the labeling of plant-based products.” So far, 10,043 comments (as of December 28, 2018) have been received on this docket. To comment by the new deadline of January 28, 2019, go to the docket online at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FDA-2018-N-3522.

Dairy checkoff-funded DMI completed a survey of consumers recently showing that 73% are confused about the differences in nutrition between real dairy milk and plant-based alternatives calling themselves ‘milk.’

Other surveys show that more than half of U.S. consumers want healthy foods with ‘clean’ labels having few ingredients and limited or no processing.

It would seem that these findings, among others, would indicate clearly to FDA and USDA that consumers want no more monkey-business when it comes to their food, that they want to see clarity in the enforcement of milk and dairy standards of identity, and that they want to be informed about look-alike ingredients made in laboratories instead of in the time-honored land-and-animal care-taking profession of dairy and livestock farmers and ranchers.

One thing to keep in mind when commenting is to highlight the fact that over half of U.S. consumers want food that does not have a long list of additives and that is minimally processed.

That, on top of nutritional differences and new unproven processes, are enough reason to aggressively label any food containing either the fake dairy or fake meat protein because standards of identity are in place not just for health and safety but also to prevent fraudulent misleading of consumers.

Consumers should know what they are buying and be able to choose food based on their beliefs about what is a better world, not someone else defining what is kind and good and sustainable for them and not using the government’s currently flawed dietary guidelines to decide for consumers what is deemed “healthy.”

Let FDA and USDA know that we as consumers and farmers want clear labeling if these technologies are going to scale into our food system. We want the fake versions to have all of the inspection rigor that real dairy and meat proteins are subjected to.

Above all, we do not want the government quietly removing — via its one-size-fits-all nutrition innovation strategy — our ability to choose foods and production methods with which we want to nourish our bodies and on which we wish to spend our hard-earned money.

This may come down to a battle between fake animal protein ingredients funded by billionaires aligned with Silicon Valley startups and partnered by the biggest names in corporate agriculture vs. a collaboration between individual farmers and ranchers who are the backbone of our nation, the stewards of land and livestock, along with the public at-large, the consumers who are confused by the lines that are blurring.

Now, more than ever, both ends of the supply chain — farmers / ranchers and consumers — need to engage with each other directly — and not through the industry-scripted mouthpieces.

Stay tuned.

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NY’s ESF Wagyu dispersal Sept. 22: Japan’s ‘national treasure’ brings top-shelf flavor to beef

Niche cross-breeding opportunity seen for dairy

By Sherry Bunting, originally published in Farmshine, Sept. 14, 2018

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NEW BERLIN, N.Y. — Their frame and appearance could be deemed more dairy than beef. Their meat is prized above all for flavor and tenderness. At hotels and resorts, Wagyu beef is top-of-the-line. If you’ve eaten the real thing, you know it.

In Japan, the Wagyu are a longstanding national treasure.

In the U.S., they have been the pride and joy of breeders like Donald ‘Doc’ Sherwood, DVM. He has been breeding full-blood Wagyu beef cattle for 17 years at his Empire State Farm near Binghamton, New York.

On Saturday, September 22nd, 100 lots of elite Wagyu cattle and genetics will sell in the Empire State Farm (ESF) ‘Final Chapter’ herd dispersal at the Hosking Sales facility in New Berlin.

The sale will feature young and mature cows, bred and open heifers, herd sire prospects, embryo recipient cows, cow/calf pairs, embryos and semen.

Cow Buyer will be in the house for online bidding as well.

The retired veterinarian once bred some top purebred Holstein dairy cattle under the ESF prefix in a joint venture several decades ago, with one of his sons, who previously had a dairy farm. They sold some ESF dairy cattle to Japan.

Years later, in 2001, Dr. Sherwood began importing the Japanese Wagyu beef cattle and developed full-blood genetics — taking his love of bovines in a different direction toward the elite melt-in-your-mouth beef of the Wagyu.

“I was interested in the disposition of these animals and the quality of their meat,” Sherwood recalls in a phone interview with Farmshine this week. “I researched them, and I realized they were a fit for me. There were not too many breeders at the time, and their disposition made it possible for me to work with them on my own.”

Full-blood herds, like ESF, are highly prized as sources of imported and developed 100% Wagyu genetics. Sherwood explains that purebred herds are defined as a minimum 93% Wagyu and that the industry today includes many other ‘percentage-Wagyu’ herds.

In fact, the American Wagyu Association (AWA) is the fastest growing beef breed association in recent years.

Sherwood chose to stay 100% Wagyu, breeding only full-bloods according to the Japanese tradition. Over the years, he’s sold mainly breeding stock, but also surplus males for others to finish for specialty top-shelf beef markets.

During his veterinary years before retirement in 2003, Sherwood and his wife Mary, worked as partners, but as he got into the Wagyu after retirement, she was unable for health reasons to help. He has developed a real affinity for this breed because of the way they acclimate readily to people making his work easier in these later years.

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“To look at them, you would never know what a superior beef animal they are. They aren’t muscular or thick like other beef breeds, and in some ways their body structure is more dairy,” says Dr. Donald Sherwood of Empire State Farm as he notes the outstanding meat the Wagyu produce and the pleasure this Japanese breed has been for him to work with virtually on his own for 17 years.

“These cattle are a pleasure to work with. It’s neat to have an animal you can work with by yourself as long as you let them know you’re around,” Sherwood observes.

He says many people are getting started into this breed and building on it, in part because they are easy to work with as long as they are not left to run wild.

“It’s not hard to work with the Wagyu. They adjust to people very well and become docile and friendly with interaction, where other beef breeds don’t get that disposition where they enjoy being around people,” Sherwood explains.

“The Japanese bred these cattle originally, and I’ve based a lot of my program on the proven sires from Japan. Most of my sires have come from Japan, where these cattle are a national treasure – they think that much of them,” he adds.

We hear the stories, that the Japanese feed the Wagyu beer and massage them and take individual care of them as smallholder operations. As Sherwood notes, Japan doesn’t have the land resources for cattle like in the U.S., so they are protective of their Wagyu in smaller and more intimate settings.

He is quick to point out, “It’s really the meat that makes the Wagyu stand out. These aren’t show cattle. Their claim to fame is how they look on the rail,” Sherwood explains. “With meat so outstanding, the Wagyu are more noted for the quality of their meat than being judged for their appearance in a show ring. They aren’t that muscular, but have that good-tasting beef with a healthy and flavorful fat.”

In the U.S., Wagyu (or as it is often described on menus as “Kobe”) often comes from percentage-herds or crossbreeding. But for those who’ve had the real-deal, it’s an eating experience not soon forgotten.

Information from the American Wagyu Association (AWA) suggests the type of marbling is different. Imagine thin ribbons of intramuscular fat evenly dispersed. And AWA notes this is a healthy fat that is high in Omega 3’s.

“To look at them, you would never know what a superior beef animal they are,” Sherwood says with a chuckle. “They aren’t muscular or thick like other beef breeds, and in some ways their body structure is more dairy.”

In fact, in Japan and Australia, Holsteins are often crossed with the Wagyu to reduce birthweight for first-calf dairy animals and to produce an F1 cross that offers a “commercial” version of this very distinctive high-quality beef.

In Australia, for example, the Wagyu herd is quite large, and they’ve developed the F1 Holstein x Wagyu as a secondary income stream for a dairy industry under siege of many years of poor milk prices.

Breeding Holstein females to Wagyu bulls is already commonplace in both Japan and Australia with Wagyu x Holstein deemed the ultimate cross in Japan because Holsteins are the next highest marbling cattle breed behind Wagyus, producing meat superior in quality to the meat of Wagyu crossed with any other breed, according to information available from the AWA.

Their highly-marbled beef typically grades Prime or above, even in crossbreeding programs. In fact, Japan has eight quality standards above the U.S. Prime quality grade that the Wagyu meet, according to the AWA.

In the U.S., less than 2% of all U.S. beef currently grades Prime. This, along with a return of consumers to fat and flavor after revelations about the pitfalls of lowfat diets, helps position the Wagyu as a breed that can make a significant impact on beef quality – particularly in dairy-cross programs where the value of bull calves is increased and sexed semen heifers are produced with matings to dairy bulls.

The AWA reports that numerous U.S. buyers are willing to pay $0.20-0.30 per lb premiums above local market beef prices for Wagyu F1 calves (Wagyu x Holstein).

However, this value is only realized when working with a marketing system that recognizes the superior eating quality of the Wagyu.

Still, Sherwood notes that nothing else — no cross — equals the flavor of full-blooded 100% Wagyu beef. And that is why full-bloods command such high prices.

As an example, one ESF animal selling on Sept. 22 had a sister sell for $16,000 at a sale in Limerick, Pennsylvania in April of this year. It was the Synergy Wagyu Genetic Opportunity Sale.

Synergy had several Empire State Farm (ESF) females in their herd and sold their ESF-pedigree offspring for amounts up to $46,000, according to information available in the sale catalog

In his letter to buyers, Dr. Sherwood says he does not claim to be an expert on Japanese Wagyu, but that he studied the breed extensively and incorporated the Japanese philosophy into his management to develop lines with the outstanding meat Wagyu are known for and crossing them with Wagyu lines that bring size, milking ability, small calves for calving ease as well as disposition and temperament.

“This sale is it for me,” says Sherwood, 86, about his beloved cattle project. “We had an auction five years ago, and then started up again, but age and health have me slowing-down so this is a complete dispersal this time. I’ve had 40 years as a veterinarian and a great wonderful time working with cattle and enjoying it. Now I’ll spend more time with my family with thanks to our sons Don and Steve, and especially my wife Mary. We have worked together all of our life.”

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God bless our farmers and ranchers

By Sherry Bunting, adapted from Farmshine, April 20, 2018

Mother Nature giveth and she taketh away. That is certainly true right now in agriculture. May God bless our farmers and ranchers! And may we all try to understand a little more about what they do working with the land and animals to manage the lifecycles of both.

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art courtesy Adam Bunting after 2013 SD Blizzard Atlas

My heart hurts for the difficulties and loss, while grateful for food that knows the hand well worn, the heart so dedicated, the land so loved, the lifecycles of both land and animals so tended, that people and planet have both nourishment and roots.

Not only are dairy and beef producers dealing with low prices and below cost margins, weather factors converged last weekend to produce even more difficulty and loss.

While most ranchers would be seeing their cowherds on grass by now — just as most dairy farmers would be seeing hay fields green up with growth and be doing fieldwork, harvesting rye, planting crops, and spreading manure — agriculture throughout the nation is a good three weeks behind schedule due to winter’s unwelcome overstay.

To say folks are ready for spring is an understatement!

Late March and early April brought a series of snowfalls in the East and Midwest, but then there was the big one last weekend.

Winter Storm Xantos became Blizzard Evelyn and left quite a trail, dumping high winds, deep snow and low temperature extremes upon the April calving season of beef cow/calf operations in South Dakota and Nebraska and surrounding areas.

Then it moved into Minnesota and Wisconsin dairy territory with 2 feet of snow, accompanied by 30 to 50 mph winds, to produce 5 to 10 foot drifts that not only made dairying difficult, but created snowbanks on rooftops that collapsed many barns, especially in Northeast Wisconsin.

At the same time, worsening drought in the Southwest produced fires in multiple states, with particular ferocity in western Oklahoma where upwards of 300,000 acres have burned, homes have been evacuated, over 1500 cattle and other range livestock have been lost, and the fires are nearly contained after rains quelled over 2 weeks of burn (as of April 26).

Through it all, farmers and ranchers take care of their animals, and each other. They count not just losses, but blessings.

Post after post on social media asked for prayers for farmers and ranchers in the winter storms and the fires.

Beef producers in the blizzard’s path were busy keeping mama cows fed on the range and locating newborn calves born in the blizzard to bring them in for warming.

Dairy producers were plowing lanes and roads for milk trucks and feed equipment, and shoveling snowbanked drifts from rooftops striving to avoid barn collapses.

Meanwhile others were fighting fires and mobilizing to get temporary hay and help where needed for livestock.

A dairy in western Oklahoma, making milk soaps with milk from their Jersey herd, was beyond thankful when a semitruck, loaded with dairy quality hay, arrived to feed the cows after grasslands and stockpiled forages were burned.

A  poignant story is recounted of a rancher driving his pickup into the direction of the fire that had unpredictably shifted, calling to his cattle, another going in after him to bring him to safety.

These men and women across our country continue to look out for each other and even in loss, they see blessings.

Throughout the prairies where the blizzard dumped snow on calving beef herds, ranchers gave thanks that it also brought the kind of moisture that soaks into their droughted soils and fills stock dams with much-needed water.

While the fire zones have immediate need for hay to feed surviving cattle, hay stocks across the country are becoming short due to the overstay of winter weather. This will continue as first hay cuttings in many areas from East to West are delayed by either unseasonably cold weather and excessive moisture, or by drought.

Hay is one of a number of items needed by producer-victims of the wildfires. Those interested in donating hay and fencing supplies are urged to contact coordinators at 405.496.9329, 405.397.7912 or 405.590.0106.

Like in last year’s western fires, Erin Boggs and her family are picking up orphaned and burned calves to care for them until the ranchers are ready to bring them home. Follow her at @rurallifewife on facebook and learn how to help.

As an outgrowth of last year’s devastating fires, a 501c3 charitable foundation called Ag Community Relief was set up in Michigan to respond to all kinds of relief efforts among U.S. farms and ranches.

Wildfire relief assistance for cattle producers and stockgrowers is also being coordinated by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation and the Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Foundation

To help pay firefighters’ bills, there’s a public facebook group with information of all the fire companies involved.

On social media posts, I often see comments about bringing cows in or leaving them out. There is no one cattle management system that will protect from every abnormal weather event, poorly timed storms and wind-fueled fires.

Farmers and ranchers plan for what can be anticipated and adapt with perseverance for what cannot. There are no guarantees, so the deal is played. Here is just a small sampling of how:

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The first of the many blizzard babies saved at Wink Cattle Co., Howes, South Dakota as Dean and Joan Wink (above) worked in tandem. Dean found the newborn calves and brought them in for Joan to warm in the kitchen before returning them to their dams. The April calvings kept them busy throughout the 24 hours at the height of the blizzard with more snow falling the next week. Dean is former Speaker of the SD House and Joan was appointed by the Governor last year to the SD Board of Regents. She is a literacy, language and education professor and author rooted in the reality of ranching life as in her latest book, The Power of Story.   Photos courtesy Joan Wink

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In Ellwood, Nebraska, Becky Long Chaney, formerly of Thurmont, Maryland, reported her family is thanking God that the ranch’s 200-plus calves made it through the storm and that all newborns were located. The Chaney twins Rianna and Sheridan (left) helped warm calves. Photos courtesy Becky Long Chaney
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Sadly, dairy barn roof collapses were reported on dozens of dairy farms in Wisconsin. In most cases, cattle were saved, but in other cases, cattle were lost. At Kinnard Farms (above) where over 1000 cows are milked, they reported incredibly strong winds with Blizzard Evelyn producing huge snow drifts building up on the roof over a milking parlor. They spent Sunday afternoon working to remove as much rooftop snowbank as possible because 5 to 10 more inches of snow were still in the forecast. Evelyn may go down as the second largest recorded snowfall in Green Bay history, and it occurred in mid-April when farms like this one would normally be turning their attention to the crop fields. Photo courtesy Kinnard Farms

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Against a backdrop of snow and ice that is unusual this time of year, even for Minnesota, the family at Lingen Dairy (above), Balaton, Minnesota spent all night moving continuously drifting snow to take care of cattle, keep barn roofs free of snowbanks and help get the milk truck in – finally. The farm’s lone Jersey could be counted on to come outside and monitor the efforts. Photos courtesy Lingen Dairy

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At the Benson Ranch (above) in Colton, South Dakota, they worked throughout the day and night to keep cattle fed, pay particular attention to youngstock and locate newborns in the blizzard. Photo courtesy Laura Benson

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Scenes like this one (above) captured by the Englewood Kansas firefighters in one of several western Oklahoma fires, tell only a fraction of the tale of devastation these wildfires are spreading throughout cattle and range country on the heels of last year’s devastating fire season. Photo courtesy Englewood Firefighters

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Here a rancher, Jason Bates, carries a calf from a burning field this week in Oklahoma. Photo posted by Megan Greer, by Debbie Bates

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And then there are scenes like these involving efforts like Ag Community Relief, where farmers, truckers, lenders and ag service and supply companies work together to quickly get to the work of #haulinhope — getting emergency hay for surviving livestock, milk replacer for orphaned calves, and other supplies that are needed where they are needed in areas like the fire zones. Sometimes, rain follows along, sure hope more comes their way.

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High plains fires take lives, spark spirit

Convoys of trucks bringing hay to the areas affected by March wildfires have come from central Texas, southwest Oklahoma, central Kansas and from Nebraska, South Dakota, Michigan, Ohio and now funds for fuel are being raised to bring 1000 round bales from western Pennsylvania to southwest Kansas… as farmers and ranchers across the country pull together in amazing ways to help their peers with forage for cattle after wildfires decimated grasslands and stored hay in the High Plains. Derrick Carlisle of Claysville, Pennsylvania reports that nearly 1000 round bales of hay have been donated from farms in Greene and Washington counties, and a trucking company has agreed to transport the hay to Ashland, Kansas “at fuel cost.” Now, funds are being raised quickly to buy fuel to transport the hay. Individuals and businesses wanting to help provide funds for fuel, should contact Washington County Cattlemen’s Association president Brian Hrutkay at 724-323-5815.

To help with the ongoing relief efforts for ranchers affected by the wildfires, visit http://www.beefusa.org/firereliefresources.aspx to see various contacts for ways to help listed by the states affected as well as coordinated efforts in other states like Kentucky and Minnesota that are planning deliveries.

 Trent Loos at Rural Route Radio is helping to organize a rebuilding effort through means of raising cash. Various auctions are already set and the idea can be replicated. For information about how to participate in this, contact Trent Loos at 515.418.8185 or check out his Rural Route radio
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“There is so much appreciation in this community for the outpouring of love and compassion.”

Recap reprinted from Farmshine, March 17, 2017

ASHLAND, Kan. — High Plains ranchers are always on guard for the combination of March winds and wildfires. When the two conspire together, the result can rapidly turn devastating and deadly. That was the situation last week in southwest Kansas, the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle and eastern Colorado.

All told, the wildfires on March 6 consumed around 1.7 million acres of grassland, 33 homes, over 200 farm structures, an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 adult cows along with untold numbers of calves, horses and wildlife. In Texas and Oklahoma, over 5000 hogs perished in separate facilities.

Tragically, some of the affected ranching families in the Panhandle suffered the ultimate loss of loved ones. Seven people lost their lives, at least five while trying to herd cattle to safety before becoming trapped in the rapidly moving fire when the high winds changed direction.

The livestock losses are particularly heavy in southwest Kansas, where a local veterinarian estimates 3000 to 6000 beef cattle have perished; however, an accurate assessment is still weeks away. In the Panhandle, Texas A&M Agrilife extension reports preliminary loss estimates of 2500 adult cows, plus additional calves.

Two consecutive years of above average moisture provided the good grass growth that ended up fueling multiple fires in early March. The previous 60 days had turned it tinder-dry, together with the high winds of up to 60-70 mph, creating the perfect storm. The rapidly moving ‘Starbuck’ fire in northeast Oklahoma and southwest Kansas will go down as the largest and most devastating single fire in Kansas state history. In the Panhandle, the March 6 fire is being called the third worst in Texas history.

While there are some dairies in these areas, extension agents and veterinarians report that no dairy cattle were impacted. But dairy producers and calf ranch operators are among the ag community throughout the region, and beyond, responding to the immediate needs of the region’s ranchers.

Occurring at a vulnerable time, the fires have orphaned many newborn calves. In fact, one purebred Angus operation in Ashland, Kansas described the confluence of emotion – simultaneously dealing with the grisly task of locating and putting-down hundreds of adult cows while gathering to the corrals over 100 survivors for further monitoring and evaluation – 30 of them having their calves in the days immediately following the fire.

Many of the ranchers have lost much of their stored hay supply, and the region’s unburned grasslands are a good 60 days away from greenup — provided they get rain. Surviving cattle are being pulled onto wheat pasture and into corrals — making the immediate priority that of acquiring the hay necessary to feed a good 15,000 surviving livestock in southwest Kansas and over 10,000 in the Panhandle.

With fences to build and repair, feed to secure, cows still calving and long term plans and decisions to make, there’s no time to bottle and bucket feed calves two and three times a day, particularly those ranchers who have also lost their homes.

OrphanCalves01(K-State)County 4-H clubs put the word out early, that youth members would take-in bucket calves to help the ranchers who have so many other things to do in the recovery. (Follow them on Facebook at Orphaned Calf Relief of SW Kansas)

Veterinarians are reaching out to colleagues in the hard-hit areas. Dr. Randy Spare at Ashland Veterinary Center has been organizing some of the needs. He received a call late last week from Dr. Tera Barnhardt.

The 2014 K-State graduate operates a solo bovine practice for dairies and feedlots two hours north of Ashland. While doing preg checks at Deerfield Calf Feeders — where dairy replacement heifers are raised near Johnson, Kansas – Dr. Barnhardt and the general manager Cary Wimmer came up with the idea of offering temporary homes and care in the calf ranch hutches for orphaned calves from Ashland.

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Many ag companies have donated milk replacer, feed, pharmaceuticals and other animal care products — and along with hay donations from other ranches — have come personal items for the families who have lost their homes and belongings.

“Our hearts go out to the ranchers,” said Dr. Barnhardt. “I’m just glad we could help connect some dots and take something off their plate.”

Some of the orphaned Angus calves now at Deerfield are from the Giles Ranch, Ashland, where three family members lost their homes and where they had significant cow losses. At Deerfield, as with the 4-Hers who have volunteered calf care, these baby calves will get the individual care and supervision they need while their owners deal with the recovery process.

“All aspects of this industry are coming together,” said Barnhardt. “It has been impressive. Even the workers at the calf ranch are inspired and proud to take care of these babies.”

As the immediate hustle to triage cattle and secure feed and care for survivors shifts to a longer term plan for coordinating the ongoing relief efforts, those close to the situation are encouraging people who want to help to consider monetary donations needed to cover trucking costs to get donated hay and materials to the affected ranches.

“We don’t want to turn down hay because some of our ranchers are just coming to grips with what their losses are and what their needs will be,” said Dr. Spare. The biggest issue with hay donations right now is the trucking bottleneck. In the short term, the tangibles have been necessary because it takes time for the various foundations to pool monetary donations and get resources to the ranchers.

“Farmers have called from as far away as Vermont and Wisconsin wanting to donate hay, and right now we have 800 bales available nearby in Waco, Texas if we could find the trucking,” said Spare.

Convoys of trucks — semiloads and pickups hauling flatbed trailers — brought an estimated 3000 round bales to the fire-affected regions over the weekend. With more hay available in central Texas and nearby Nebraska, the biggest need at the moment is more trucks or funds to help pay the fuel costs to transport the donated hay.

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(above) Convoys of trucks with hay headed to the wildfire-affected areas over the weekend. This one was organized by Mike and Conner Franetovich of southwest Oklahoma carrying 260 round bales to the ranchers in northwest Oklahoma. Photo by LaQuita Massee/Images By LQ

“When the hay trucks rolled in, it was like the cavalry arrived,” said Greg Gardiner of Gardiner Angus, Ashland. The well-known Angus breeder lost over 500 adult cows, mainly donor cows and spring calvers. They have over 1500 survivors but lost all of their hay — over 5000 round bales and their horse hay as well.

Greg’s brother Mark and his wife Eva lost their home, three of their horses and their dogs to the fire, despite their efforts to free them as the fire changed direction. He was behind them with the horse trailer when the black smoke descended making it impossible to see. He spent a half hour not knowing if they made it out.

“This thing is of biblical proportions, but it all seems small to me. My brother is alive,” said Gardiner. He described the landscape that burned from one end of the ranch to the other as an “apocalyptic wasteland” that will eventually come back stronger with enough rain.

“We’re praying for rain,” said Spare, describing dirty skies as the wind lifts the gray sand over charred soils.

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While prayers are most coveted, those who want to help are urged to contact organizers in the various affected states (see below) to see what the needs are as community leaders develop an ongoing relief plan.

“We are still contacting ranchers,” said Spare. “Some are saying they don’t need hay and feel embarrassed to take it, but the grass is all gone, and we are 60 days from good grass (in unburned areas) if it rains, so we are trying to help people understand as they make their plans, that they will need to have something to feed.”

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Make no mistake, this will be a long recovery for ranchers who have lost 50 to 90% of their herds and multiple years of income, as well as their stockpiled forage and grasslands.

“I told CNN that we as ranchers are stewards of the grasslands, and that the only way we have something to sell for an income is to sell grass through the cows that are eating it. We are working to take care of that and start all over again,” said Dr. Spare, who had significant losses among his own cow herd and was relieved when his son showed up in the driveway Tuesday morning, taking time away from vet school before spring exams to take care of the home front while he worked with other ranchers and their cattle.

As the reality sinks in…

“There is so much appreciation in this community for the outpouring of love and compassion, from the people who come alongside with prayers and help,” said Spare. “Many don’t know how they’ll get through this, but we know we will get through it.”

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A world without cattle?

By Sherry Bunting, published April 22 Register-Star (Greene Media)

A world without cattle would be no world at all.

GL45-Earth Day(Bunting).jpgThe health of the dairy and livestock economies are harbingers of the economic health of rural America … and of the planet itself. Here’s some food for thought as we celebrate Earth Day and as climate change discussions are in the news and as researchers increasingly uncover proof that dietary animal protein and fat are healthy for the planet and its people.

How many of us still believe the long refuted 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, which stated that 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide, come from livestock, and mostly from cattle?

This number continues to show up in climate-change policy discussion even though it has been thoroughly refuted and dismissed by climate-change experts and biologists, worldwide.

A more complete 2006 study, by the top global-warming evaluators, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated that the greenhouse gas emissions from all of agriculture, worldwide, is just 10 to 12 percent. This includes not only livestock emissions, but also those from tractors, tillage, and production of petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Hence, the UN Environmental Program disputed the UN FAO assertion to state the percentage of emissions from total agriculture, worldwide, is just 11%, and that cattle — as a portion of that total — are responsible for a tiny percentage of that 11%. While cattle contribute a little over 2% of the methane gas via their digestive system as ruminants (like deer, elk, bison, antelope, sheep and goats), they also groom grasslands that cover over one-quarter of the Earth’s total land base, and in so doing, they facilitate removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to be tied up in renewable grazing plant material above and below the ground — just like forests do!

Think about this for a moment. The UN Environmental Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are in agreement that cattle and other livestock are not the problem the anti-meat and anti-animal-ag folks would have us believe. In fact, they are in many ways a major solution.

Think about the fact that man’s most necessary endeavor on planet Earth — the ongoing production of food — comes from the agriculture sector that in total accounts for just 11 percent of emissions!

Why, then, are major environmental groups and anti-animal groups so fixated on agriculture, particularly animal agriculture, when it comes to telling consumers to eat less meat and dairy as a beneficial way to help the planet? Why, then, has the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Council pushed that agenda in its preliminary report to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, that somehow the Earth will be better sustained if we eat less meat?

They ignore the sound science of the benefits livestock provide to the Earth. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say what Nicolette Niman has written in her widely acclaimed book “Defending Beef” that, “Cattle are necessary to the restoration and future health of the planet and its people.”

Niman is a trained biologist and former environmental attorney as well as the wife of rancher Bill Niman. She has gathered the data to overturn the myths that continue to persist falsely in the climate-change debate, and her book is loaded with indisputable facts and figures that debunk the “sacred cows” of the anti-animal agenda:

  • Eating meat causes world hunger. Not true. In fact, livestock are not only a nutrient dense food source replacing much more acreage of vegetation for the same nutritive value, livestock are deemed a “critical food” that provides “critical cash” for one billion of the planet’s poorest people — many of whom live where plant crops cannot be grown.
  • Eating meat causes deforestation. Not true. Forests, especially in Brazil, are cleared primarily for soybean production. Approximately 85 percent of the global soybean supply is crushed resulting in soybean oil used to make soy products for human consumption and soybean meal for animal consumption. A two-fer.
  • Eating meat, eggs and full-fat dairy products are the cause of cardiovascular disease. Not true. Researchers are re-looking at this failed advice that has shaped 40-years of American dietary policy. Its source was the 1953 Keys study, which actually showed no causative link! Meanwhile, excessive dietary carbohydrates have replaced fats in the diet, which turn to more dangerous forms of fat as we metabolize them than if we had consumed the natural saturated fats themselves. When healthy fats from nutrient-dense animal proteins are removed from the diet, additional sugars and carbs are added and these have led us down the road to increased body mass and diabetes.
  • Cattle overgrazing has ruined the western prairies. Not true. While improper grazing can have a localized detrimental effect, the larger issue is the pervasive negative effect that is largely coming from not grazing enough cattle. Higher stocking densities that are rotated actually improve the health of grasslands. Large herds provide the activity that loosens, aerates and disperses moisture along with the nutrients the cattle return to the soil — for more vigorous grass growth and soil retention — much as 30 million buffalo and antelope groomed the prairies two centuries ago. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management has favored controlled burns over grazing and is taking away land rights our federal government once shared with ranchers. BLM reductions in allowable stocking densities have initiated a land-grabbing cycle of ranchers losing their land and livelihoods while the land is robbed of its benefits.

The anti-animal agenda continues — groundless, yet powerful. Rural economies, farm families, consumers and the Earth pay the price.

The majority of the lifecycle of supermarket beef and dairy products is rooted in grooming the grasslands and forage croplands that are vital to the Earth and its atmosphere. In addition, farmers and ranchers reduce tillage by planting winter cattle forage to hold soil in place, improve its organic matter and moisture-holding capacity, provide habitat for wildlife while providing temporary weed canopy between major crop plantings. Not only do cattle eat these harvested winter forages, they dine on crop residues and a host of other food byproducts that would otherwise go to waste.

Our planet needs livestock and the farmers and ranchers who care for them. They not only feed us — with more high quality dietary protein, calcium, zinc, and iron per serving than plant-based sources — they also feed the planet by providing necessary environmental benefits.

Enjoy your meat and dairy products without fear — certainly without guilt — and with gratefulness and appreciation for the gift of life given by the animals and because of the hard work and care they have been given by the men and women who work daily caring for the land and its animals. This Earth Day, we are grateful for the circle of life and the farmers and ranchers and their cattle, which sustain our existence, our economies, and our environment.

A former newspaper editor, Sherry Bunting has been writing about dairy, livestock and crop production for over 30 years. Before that, she milked cows. She can be reached at agrite@ptd.net.

Learn more about the latest research to measure emissions due to the dairy and livestock industries.

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Images by Sherry Bunting